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Is dark chocolate really that good for you?

Saying that things are ‘good for you’ is a subjective statement. Good for you how exactly. Give me a context.

I could tell you that donuts are good for you in various ways. Would you believe me? Probably not.

What if i told you donuts were ‘good’ for you due to the following reasons

1. They will stop you dying of starvation (guaranteed)
2. They have a neat hole in the middle that you can hoop around your man-junk when aroused.
3. They offer a form of sun protection when held above the head at the right angle (given we’re talking jumbo-sized donuts here).

Get my point?

Probably not, so I’ll clarify it for you.

The benefits of dark chocolate…

Often things are touted as being awesome for us in ONE WAY, whilst they continue to stab us in the back in several OTHER WAYS.

As an example –  raw almonds contain a great source of natural fats and a small amount of protein. Sounds great right? Yes – on one hand. On the other, their nutritional profile is quite poor and too many of these supposed ‘good fats’ will have you lining up at your nearest weight-loss center in no time. So from a fat-loss perspective, any more than a small handful of almonds a day is a bad idea.

This is also true of red wine

On one hand, it’s full of cancer-repelling antioxidants, whilst on the other, it’s caloric mecca with a count per glass which is even higher than that of white wine. Drink a bottle of wine every day and you’ll more than likely be fatting up the seat of your pants faster than Steven Seagal on a cheesecake.

That brings me to dark chocolate being bad for you…

Here are the positive aspects:

For dark chocolate to contain the following health benefits, a cocoa content 70 percent or higher is required.

  • Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries).
  • Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body.
  • Found to lower blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure
  • Contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant
  • Contains theobromine, caffeine and other substances which are stimulants
  • Dark chocolate has far more antioxidants than milk or white chocolate.
  • May boost metabolism(2)

The negatives of chocolate?

  • Some chocolate contains substances that have addictive properties such as caffeine, sugar and theobromine, which acts like a stimulant or diuretic.
  • Milk combined with dark chocolate can negate any potential health benefit (prevents antioxidant absorption).
  • It’s sugar content creates negative health effects – increasing body weight, cholesterol and upset blood sugar levels(1)

What about dark chocolate from an experts perspective?

In a study by Hull University, which was published in the journal of Diabetic Medicine, they found a slight drop in the cholesterol level of Type II diabetic volunteers who consumed chocolate bars enriched with polyphenols for 16 weeks.

However, Dr. Iain Frame from Diabetes UK was quick to point out:

On no account should people take away the message from this study, conducted in only 12 people, that eating even a small amount of dark chocolate is going to help reduce their cholesterol levels. The tiny health benefit of this compound found in cocoa-rich chocolate would be hugely outweighed by the fat and sugar content.

So with all the pros and cons, what’s the fricken answer?

As I mentioned up top, the answer depends on your goals. If you’re looking to lose fat, you need to lower your caloric intake wherever you can – removing chocolate from your diet might be the answer to this debacle. On the other hand, if you can’t go without it completely, then moderation is key. Chocolate is a high-calorie food so only eat small portions when you feel the temptation. Over indulge, and the health benefits of dark chocolate can be quickly negated by the mountains of fat you’ll suddenly be harvesting on your thighs.

References

1 – “Dark Chocolate: Good or Bad Health Effects?” – Dr. Iain Frame (Diabetes UK) http://www.diabetes.org.uk/
2 – “Metabolic Effects of Dark Chocolate Consumption on Energy, Gut Microbiota, and Stress-Related Metabolism in Free-Living Subjects” http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/pr900607v

Clint Nielsen

Author Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Excellent topic … I love dark chocolate I eat it virtually every night (I like Lindt 85% it only has 15% sugar/100g, I also drink red wine nightly, I eat at cheese cake every weekend and nuts reugularly…. But you are dead right it’s all about proportionals not the actual food.
    I can balance 12 doughnuts and 2 cups of tea …haha ( sorry bad joke)
    Raymond

  • Clint Nielsen says:

    @Raymond
    Dark chocolate (or any for that matter) is a vice of mine – if it’s laying around the house, it’ll be consumed once a day. As for red wine, absolutely love the stuff but save it for the weekends.
    12 donuts and 2 cups of tea? that’s impressive. Will we see a blog post on how to achieve such a mean feat any time soon?

  • Cassie says:

    Everything in moderation right?

  • Clint Nielsen says:

    @Cassie
    Yup

  • Clint,

    I’m a fan of dark chocolate. I don’t know if I’d classify it as a health food, but it’s definitely better than a Snickers bar or something along those lines. Like you said, it’s all about controlling calorie intake. You can eat massive quantities of “healthy foods” and still gain weight because you’re on the wrong side of a calorie deficit.

    Alykhan

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